Vietnam has expanded a national plan to build nuclear power plants over the next 20 years.

Primer Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has approved a goal to generate 15-20 percent of the country’s total power output from nuclear power by 2050, and the Law on Atomic Energy took effect on January 1 of this year, creating a legal framework for the plan.

The plan would aim to reduce the country’s dependence on expensive petroleume-based energy sosurces, said Ta Van Huong, director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Energy Institute, at a seminar in Hanoi on Sept. 16 on nuclear power cooperation between Japan and Vietnam .

Vietnam and Japan forged ties to cooperate in nuclear power back in 1997. More than 300 Vietnamese have studied in Japan and the same mumber of Japanese experts have come to Vietnam to further promote bilateral cooperation in the field, said Yahagi Tomoyoshi from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Japan has a long history of using nuclear power, with its first commercial nuclear plants coming on line in July 1996. It now has 53 nuclear reactors in action with a total capacity of 47,935 MW and 53 others under construction. Most were built in coastal areas for ready access to cooling water supplies and shipping.

Under Vietnam’s original plan, the nation would build two plants with a combined capacity of 8,000 MW to come on line during 2020-24, Huong said.

There are now plans to build additional plants during 2024-30, each consisting of four 1,000 MW reactors fueled by about 30 tonnes of 4 percent low enriched uranium, Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) would oversee the construction of the first nuclear plant in Ninh Thuan province’s Phuoc Dinh village.

The government had initially earmarked 6 billion USD for each plant, but funding remained an issue he added. The EVN has invited nuclear power companies from Japan, France, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the US to discuss possible investments. Once commenced, it would take six years to complete construction of a reactor, said Huong.

If carried out, the plan would make Vietnam the second country in Southeast Asia to build a nuclear power plant after the Philippines, Huong said. Thailand was conducting a feasibility study on a plant to be built there by 2020, but public opposition has hindered progress. By contrast, 99 percent of Vietnamese citizens polled supported plans for nuclear energy, Huong said./.